Never Heard of National Landing? You’re Not Alone

Photo by Christian Wiediger

What the heck is National Landing

On November 13th, Amazon announced it had selected Long Island City in Queens, New York and National Landing in Arlington, Virginia as its two new headquarters locations. The entire population of the Washington metropolitan area raised its collective eyebrows and asked, “What the heck is National Landing?”

According to Amazon’s press release, “National Landing is an urban community in Northern Virginia located less than three miles from downtown Washington, DC. The area is served by three Metro stations, commuter rail access, and Reagan National Airport—all within walking distance. The community has a variety of hotels, restaurants, high-rise apartment buildings, retail, and commercial offices. National Landing has abundant parks and open space with sports and cultural events for residents of all ages throughout the year.” So why didn’t the locals know about this great place? In fact, National Landing didn’t even have a Wikipedia page at the time of Amazon’s announcement.

Did Amazon rename Crystal City?

The internet was abuzz with people claiming that Amazon was assigning a new moniker to Crystal City. The Washingtonian published an article on its website titled “Did Amazon Just Rename Crystal City?” Twitter users joked that if Amazon brings 25,000 new jobs to the area, it can call Crystal City whatever it wants.

Where exactly is the National Landing?

So where is National Landing, exactly? Let’s start with the basics. National Landing is in the commonwealth of Virginia;more specifically, it’s in Northern Virginia (which is an odd name considering that there isn’t a region called Southern Virginia). NoVA, as it’s commonly called, is a region composed of the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas, and Manassas Park, according to  the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s website. Arlington is a county within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Since it’s not within a city, Arlington is a self-governing county, and it does not contain any incorporated towns or villages. Arlington is divided into two unincorporated areas with Route 50 serving as the dividing line: North Arlington and South Arlington. Almost all Arlington street names begin with the prefix “North” or “South.”

What about Crystal City?

Both North Arlington and South Arlington contain a mixture of residential neighborhoods, historic districts, and urban villages. Urban villages, though not actually incorporated villages, are “compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods” according to UrbanVillage.com.  The urban villages in South Arlington are Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Shirlington. The fact that two of these places have the word “city” in their name just makes things more confusing. “Why does the app say we’re going to Arlington?” countless tourists have asked their Uber drivers. “I want to go to Crystal City.”

Crystal City got its name in the early 1960s when developer Robert H. Smith built a slew of apartment buildings each with the word “Crystal” in its name, the first of which was Crystal House in 1961 with a large crystal chandelier in the lobby. Prior to that, Crystal City was a nameless area of junkyards and industrial sites along Route 1. Crystal City is nicknamed “Underground City” because of its many underground corridors linking stores, offices, and apartment buildings. It even has an underground mall, which opened in 1976 as Crystal Underground and is now Crystal City Shops.     

Now things get complicated

Now here’s where things get complicated (if you didn’t think they were complicated already). National Landing extends beyond Crystal City. It also includes parts of Pentagon City and Potomac Yard in Alexandria. If it was self-governing, it could be a municipality, but National Landing doesn’t have a governing body. It doesn’t even have borders! Stephanie Landrum, President and CEO of Alexandria Economic Development, told Washingtonian that National Landing has “no finite boundaries” and represents “an interesting way to erase an invisible line between the jurisdictions.”

Basically, National Landing is a community, albeit an amorphous one. Will it someday be nicknamed NaLa? Will the communities adjacent to it one day be referred to as North National Landing? Whatever you call it, the property values in National Landing are about to rise.

 

alizaAbout the author: Aliza Epstein is a native of the Washington, DC area and currently lives in Arlington, VA.  She works as a non-profit manager.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site

Meet Jessie: Jewish TV Junkie of the Week

jessie

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Jessie: I studied abroad in Asia, and my plan was to go back there after college and do nonprofit work in Thailand. The stars aligned for me to wind up in DC because I didn’t get the opportunities I applied for in Thailand, I knew a handful of friends who were moving to DC, and I got a job at Hillel International. Also, it was in 2016 when things were ramping up for the election, and I wanted to feel some of that energy.

Allie: I hear you’re helping out with this year’s Falafel Frenzy. Tell me about that.

Jessie: Falafel Frenzy is a holiday alternative for Jewish people who are looking for something festive to do on Christmas Eve. It’s a fun night to share with friends and give back to The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Allie: How did you wind up on the Falafel Frenzy host committee?

Jessie: I come from a tight-knit Jewish community in Cincinnati, but after a year of living in DC and working for Hillel, I realized that I didn’t have much of a tie to the local Jewish community outside of work, so I decided to go on Birthright trip. After that, I got more involved with Federation and became a part of their Young Leadership (YL) Board. Ally Sherman, who is also on the Board, asked me to chair Falafel Frenzy with her this year.

Allie: How can someone get tickets for Falafel Frenzy?

Jessie: You can buy tickets here. It’s at Hawthorne on U Street on December 24th. Mark your calendars!

jessie

Allie: What do you do to relax at the end of a long work week?

Jessie: I’m a TV junkie. I like watching comedies and stand-up comedy. I also love watching movies, particularly in theaters. Exercising, like spinning and practicing yoga, also helps me clear my head.

Allie: What are some movies and TV shows that you love?

Jessie: I loved A Quiet Place, A Star is Born, Inglorious Bastards. I also really like Big Mouth, Broad City, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I’m currently in a John Mulaney phase.

Allie: If you could invite 3 celebs to your Shabbat dinner table, who would they be?

Jessie: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Khloe Kardashian – I’d love to see those two talk. And the third would be Ilana Glazer, she’d be pumped to meet RBG.

Allie: What do you want to do more of this year?

Jessie: I want to try more breweries, explore new parts of the city, and seek out more mentors. Maybe not mentors in the traditional sense, but people who are just a few years older than me who can show me what it looks like to be 5 or 10 years out from where I am in my career.

Allie: What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?

Jessie: Italy. There’s a lot of art history to see and wine to drink. Also, the Philippines. My mom’s family used to work in the Philippines so we have a lot of connections there and I’ve never been. I’d also really love to do a U.S. National Park tour.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to get festive during the holiday season?

Jessie: I feel like people consume a lot more sugar, and pastries – like cinnamon donuts – during the holiday season. I’m very on board with that. But, I’m a really bad gift giver so I get pretty stressed out during the holiday time.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Jessie: We have fun. I’m big on humor.

jessie bf

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site

Happy Hanukkah DC: From Our Stomachs To Yours

The Festival of Lights has finally arrived! What better way to celebrate this holiday than inhaling as many latkes, donuts, and gelt as possible? If you have yet to indulge in your share of these delightful treats, not to worry. We’re here to help. Look no further for the best Hanukkah deals in DC. And no, it’s definitely not too late to dig into some sufganiyot!

donuts

Sufganiyot from Sugar Shack

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

Astro Doughnuts is one of our FAVORITE places for delightful sugary treats, and this year they did not disappoint. They’re offering a special “Hanukkah Mini Box” featuring a dozen doughnuts inspired by the holiday, including Sufganiyot, creme brulee mini doughnuts topped with gelt, and Hanukkah cookie mini doughnuts. These delicious little rings of joy are available at all locations throughout Hanukkah (December 2-10).

B. Doughnut

Berry jam, cinnamon sugar, and a seasonal gingerbread flavor! They also have vegan berry glazed donut holes with granola. So yeah, there’s that.

Dino’s Grotto

Dino’s Grotto (similar but different to The Little Mermaid’s grotto) has an entire Hanukkah 2018 menu available a la carte or as a family style FEAST. Take your pick from latkes, specialty pasta, a choice of chicken or fish, and an olive oil citrus cake. Ooookay!

Chai-vy & Coheney

This is perhaps the most popular pop-up bar in Washington DC. Stop by this famous Shaw watering hole for shots out of a menorah, red and green dreidels, and lots and lots of Manischewitz. Not only is this pop-up bar super fun and innovative, but all proceeds from the ShotNorah (eight guests take shots in unison) are being donated to HIAS. How’s that for some warm and fuzzy holiday feels?

Commissary DC

Commissary’s menu is currently featuring vegetarian potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce! They also serve potato pancakes with eggs, smoked salmon, sour cream, and toast which sounds absolutely incredible. We have not tried this, but if anyone wants to go to brunch here with us this weekend, please comment below. 🙂

District Doughnut

They carry a special sufganiyot flavor (vanilla bean, sugar, and strawberry jam) for the season, along with a year-round Bailey’s & Coffee, Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, and definitely not kosher Maple Bacon.

Fare Well

In addition to hosting celebs like Miley Cyrus, this vegan staple on H Street boasts egg-free potato latkes with homemade sour creme and apple sauce for the season.

Miracle on 7th St

This isn’t a traditional “restaurant,” we know, but obviously we had to include this yearly staple in our roundup of Hanukkah deals across DC. While the majority of this bar centers around Christmas, there is an amazing Hanukkah section filled with menorahs, a specialty drink called The Hebrew Hammer, and Chinese food boxes. Because a lot of Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas. Get it?

Sugar Shack Donuts

Voted one of the Top 10 Tastiest Donuts in America, Sugar Shack carries flavors like Candy Cane and carries a raspberry jam filled Sufganiyot flavor that I can tell you from personal experience is fully, moist, and finger-licking good.

Other places to indulge in your favorite festive delicacies:

Know of other places to try delicious latkes or donuts before Hanukkah comes to a close? Please comment below!

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site

 

GatherDC Giving Circle

giving circle

GatherDC’s Executive Director Rachel Gildiner and Rabbi Aaron Potek invite you to take part in a hands-on exploration of your Jewish giving values and opportunity to make a lasting impact in the community.

We will collaborate with like-minded Jewish 30-somethings and decide how to create social change in our community at sessions on January 16th, 23rd, 30th, and February 6th from 7 to 9pm at GatherDC’s townhouse in Dupont Circle.

We invite you to learn more and apply below.

 


Contact Information

Giving Circle Q&A

For those who have never participated in a giving circle before and have a few questions…we have some answers for you.

What’s a giving circle?

A giving circle if a form of participatory philanthropy where a group of people pool together their money and collectively decide where to donate it.

How much money do I need to contribute?

We request a minimum contribution of $180. 100% of this donation will go directly to the organization(s) you decide on together as a group.

Where does the money go?

You decide! Each member of the group will have an opportunity to explore and present charities you care about. As a group, you will decide where and how to donate the pooled money.

What is the point of this giving circle?

There are several! A few are: to increase awareness of nonprofits and charities that are worthy of your support; to empower you to discover your philanthropic values and identity; to help you meet other Jewish young adults with a passion for giving back; to increase your engagement with important causes for years to come; and to make your financial resources go further.

What will we do at each meeting?

The group will get to know one another through deep, meaningful conversations about Jewish values of giving and our own personal Jewish identity. We’ll discuss and ultimately vote on what charity to invest in.

What if I can’t afford to donate $180?

Don’t worry. You can contact Rachel Gildiner at rachelg@gatherdc.org and we can decide on an amount that works for you.

What if I would like to contribute more than $180?

$180 is the suggested amount. However, additional contributions are welcome. Please donate the amount that will enable you to make a meaningful contribution to the organization(s) that this giving circle selects.

Does any of the pooled money go to GatherDC?

No. None of the money you contribute for this giving circle will go to GatherDC.This giving circle is not intended to be a form of fundraising for GatherDC, but rather an opportunity for community members to discover their philanthropic values and identities. If you would like to support GatherDC, you may voluntarily choose to make an additional donation.

Is my gift tax deductible?

Yes!

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For questions, email Jackie at jackiez@gatherdc.org.

GatherDC welcomes the participation of interfaith ​individuals, and people of all abilities, backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations. GatherDC ​fosters inclusive communities​​​ and strive​s​ to accommodate all needs whenever possible. If you require special accommodations, please contact us​ in advance of the event​ at (202) 656-0743, and we will make every effort to meet your needs.

By attending, you understand that photographs and/or video may be taken at this event, and your picture may appear on the GatherDC website, publications, or other media.

Rabbi Rant: On Abundance and Scarcity

rabbi rant

It’s Hanukkah, and the malleable metaphor of light amidst darkness will inspire many important themes – hope amidst cynicism, clarity amidst doubt, joy amidst sadness, etc. But I think there’s a less obvious, yet no-less-important, theme related to the source of light – the oil.

It’s hard to get pumped about something lasting longer than it should have. I’ve been wearing the same coat since high school, and let me tell you – no one’s excited for me. That 30-minute meeting that lasted 2 hours? Again, not a cause for celebration. Me not getting sick from eating expired chicken? Perhaps a miracle, but certainly not holiday-worthy.

Why did the rabbis highlight the story of oil burning beyond expectation? Perhaps it was to get us thinking about scarcity, both real and perceived.

Like the Maccabees who had to work with less than what they needed, many of us might be feeling depleted in various aspects of our lives. It’s hard to sit with that lacking as well as the longing for more than what we currently have.

But also like the Maccabees, it’s possible that we already have exactly what we need.

There’s a famous chassidic story about a man – Isaac ben Yakil of Krakow – who dreams about buried treasure in a far away place, so he travels there to find it. When he gets there, he doesn’t find the treasure, but he meets a guard who tells him that he had a similar dream about treasure buried under the stove of a man named Isaac ben Yakil of Krakow. Of course, Isaac ben Yakil goes back home and finds the treasure, which was in his own home the whole time.

At times, what’s missing is only the proper perspective, an issue that Krista Tippett calls a “poverty of imagination.” Some resources aren’t as limited as we think.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks connects this idea to another aspect of the holiday – the ruling that we can light one Hanukkah candle from another candle. Despite the objection of a dissenting rabbi in the Talmud, we rule that light doesn’t diminish when shared. Rabbi Sacks then adds:

When it comes to spiritual goods as opposed to material goods, the more I share, the more I have. If I share my knowledge, or faith, or love with others, I won’t have less; I may even have more.”

When we act from a scarcity mindset, we often end up warping or misusing the resource we deem to be scarce. Even in times of abundance, the fear that it may run out at any moment can once again induce the scarcity mindset.

The weekly Torah reading, which  is always the same on Hanukkah, begins with Pharaoh’s dream about fat cows and the skinny cows, which Joseph interprets to mean years of abundance followed by years of scarcity. He then helps Pharaoh plan for the years of famine during the years of plenty.

Scarcity and abundance are interdependent – we wouldn’t know one without the other. Everyone will experience moments of abundance and moments of scarcity. As best as we can, we should cultivate and protect our resources to prevent or minimize moments of depletion – like Joseph advised Pharaoh. We should also remember that a lot is still possible from within a place of scarcity. A lot can happen from just a little. After all, the entire universe was created from a single spark

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Why Rabbis and Shuls Shouldn’t “Get Political”

politics

There’s a relatively new trend in American society that I think is doing us great harm. Everything is becoming political.

We’ve seen it with Nike weighing in on the kneeling debate, Grubhub’s CEO telling his employees that Trump voters should resign, [solidcore]’s owner speaking out about Ivanka Trump, restaurants refusing to serve various politicians, and more. Companies and groups whose missions have absolutely nothing to do with politics are increasingly beginning to publicly endorse (or reject) political parties and candidates. These actions are accelerating the already brutal polarization in this country by denying people respite from politics and the daily dysfunction in Washington. There is, however, one place that I strongly feel should remain apolitical and sacred (pun-intended): synagogue.

Don’t Get Political

What do I mean by “get political”? Increasingly, I’ve noticed a pattern in which rabbis will reference and implicitly endorse or reject certain political candidates, or disparagingly reference a political party using sweeping generalization. Before the 2016 election, some rabbis even had the gall to say “and that’s why it’s so important that we go to the polls to ensure that [x] candidate is elected!” Worse yet, I know a number of people who – in the fallout from the 2016 election – argued that their shul shouldn’t allow members of certain political parties or supporters of certain candidates to even attend the shul.

This, to me, is a complete and utter catastrophe, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, our country is currently bitterly divided across a variety of lines, arguably more so than at any time since the Civil War. Intentionally fracturing ourselves further – not just by denomination, but additionally by political affiliation – is a truly awful idea. Shul should be, and indeed needs to be, a place where Jews can come together and pray, regardless of how they look, where they come from, or who they vote for.

In addition, rabbis are, in many ways, the original teachers and therapists. As any good teacher knows, you’re supposed to teach your students how to think, not what to think. Explicitly telling congregants who to vote for or what policies to endorse completely flies in the face of this basic principle. Relatedly, how could any congregant feel comfortable seeking religious or personal advice from a rabbi who consistently bashes their party or views? This type of proselytization is very likely to unnecessarily alienate certain members of the congregation.

Finally, synagogues have the potential to serve as one of the few places where people of differing ideologies can still come together and engage in productive discussions around important issues. In today’s society, there are precious few opportunities for us to actually do this; debates and discussions – whether they take place in person or on social media – quickly turn to vitriol and ad hominems, instead of respectful dialogue. It would truly be a shame for synagogues to squander such potential by further atomizing themselves in an already tiny and heterogeneous community.

The Counterpoints

I know that this is not a popular argument, especially among my age group. Therefore, I want to take a moment to address some potential objections:

Some people will undoubtedly make the seemingly-reasonable argument that “if 90% of a shul votes a certain way or belongs to a certain party, doesn’t the rabbi have not only a right, but in fact a responsibility to cater to their stances and views?” While this seems logical on the surface, the answer is a resounding “no”. Jews have always been the “stranger in a strange land.” Even in this country today – which arguably offers the most tolerant environment for Jews in history outside the state of Israel – Jews comprise less than 2% of the population. We know what it’s like to be the minority in the room, the country, and the world. It would show a remarkable lack of self-awareness to submit the minorities in our own community to that same treatment.

Worse yet, some people might actually believe that their rabbis hold the Objective Right Answer to various moral and political questions, giving that rabbi license to pontificate. It would take immense hubris and shortsightedness to believe that there are objective Jewish “right answers” to most modern elections and policy issues. Part of what makes Judaism unique from most other religions is that Jews have been arguing about the meaning of the Torah and how best to apply it to their everyday lives for centuries. There’s a rich history in Judaism of chavruta study – being paired with someone with whom you disagree on almost every issue. This is done not to torment people, but because any question with a clear and easy answer isn’t really worth discussing. Important issues, especially political ones, are almost never clear-cut, and to believe the opposite shows a genuine lack of nuance and historical perspective.

Finally, some might argue that it is a rabbi’s prerogative to discuss and endorse whatever they want; if you don’t like it, you can find another shul. While rabbis should indeed enjoy wide leeway in what they discuss in their drashes (speeches), this is a remarkably cold and unwelcoming stance to take. Of course rabbis will inevitably infuse their own views on Judaism and society into their speeches; that is what gives each drash its unique flavor. If you strongly disagree with a rabbi or shul’s approach to Judaism, it may indeed make sense for you to think about switching to another one. But I fear the day when congregants will have to additionally weigh the politics of the shul, even if they agree with the shul’s approach to Judaism itself. This is particularly problematic in more rural areas, where shuls don’t grow on trees. It is profoundly unfair to the members of those communities to add yet another barrier to attending.

The Better Approach

What, then, should shuls and rabbis preach? Am I arguing that they should create a moratorium on discussing politics and current events? Absolutely not. Some of the best drashes I can remember discussed modern issues from a Jewish perspective, which is part of what made them fascinating and relevant. The crux of the issue – which is admittedly a fine line to walk – is that rabbis should teach the principles, history, and ethics of Judaism, without explicitly telling congregants what to do (or – in this case – how to vote).

As educators, rabbis should follow the etymological and historical traditions of the word “education” itself. Education comes from the Latin ducere (to lead) and ex (out), because the idea of education is to help lead out the thoughtfulness and creativity that students are capable of. This is exactly what rabbis should be aiming to do for their congregants: they should provide a solid grounding in the Jewish tradition and Jewish ethics, but allow their congregants to use that background to interpret the choices and dilemmas that their personal lives will inevitably bring. They should lay out the ingredients, but not “bake the cake,” so to speak. If rabbis can do this, they can create a more productive, inclusive environment for people of various ideological backgrounds, one that can serve as an example to the rest of the country and the world. Jews lead the country and the world in so many respects. I would love to see us start doing so in the realm of political tolerance.

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eliAbout the Author: Eli  Feldman is the Research Associate to the President at The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-partisan non-profit that defends student and faculty rights on college campuses. Eli graduated from Yale in 2016 with a degree in psychology.  Eli is an alumni of GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship, from which he launched the Jewish Monthly Article Club (JMAC), a club for Jewish 20s/30s to discuss articles about a range of important topics. He is passionate about sports, music, coding, politics, free speech, Marvel movies, and tech.

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Alex: Jewish Nature-Lover of the Week!

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Alex: I moved to DC this past July for a job at the World Resources Institute (an environmental think tank-meets-NGO) after finishing my master’s degree at Duke. Even though DC is the go-to place for all things policy, I actually never imagined I would move here until I was in grad school. I’m a native Seattleite and had always lived on the West Coast. But after almost 6 months in my new home, I’m loving the city and glad I made the leap!

Allie: Describe your dream free day in the city.

Alex: It would probably start with a bagel. I know this is no NYC, but I finally made it to Call Your Mother this past weekend and I can’t stop thinking about it. Later, I’d work off the bagel with some tennis. The afternoon would be spent jamming with friends on guitar and/or saxophone–my two musical pursuits. Then we’d get Ethiopian food for dinner (I love how much Ethiopian food DC has!). The night would end by biking around the monuments. I did that on my first visit to DC five years ago. There’s really nothing like pedaling from the Capitol to Lincoln with no one else around.

Allie: What do you enjoy most about being in nature?

Alex: There’s a lot that I enjoy. Fresh air, beautiful scenic views, trails to stretch your legs on, a break from the sounds of the city. But my absolute favorite thing is watching wildlife. I’m kind of an animal nut.

backpacking

Allie: If you could be famous for one thing, what would you want it to be and why?

Alex: My music. It’d be nice to be recognized professionally for my work, too, but having people know my music sounds way cooler.

Allie: What’s at the top of your life bucket list?

Alex: Possibly hiking the John Muir Trail in California. The Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier would be a close second. Hiking backcountry in Yellowstone or the Tetons would also be up there. The funny thing about bucket lists is the more things you check off, the longer they seem to get.

Allie: Describe your perfect latke.

Alex: Speaking of Call Your Mother… they also might have the perfect latke. Crispy, flavorful, steaming hot inside. I also like to make my own latkes. The secret is to serve the latkes with homemade applesauce. Applesauce is the easiest thing in the world to make, and tastes way better than the store-bought variety. Plus, it never fails to impress.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Alex: There will be bagels–and hopefully latkes, too!

 

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Dana: Jewish Baker of the Week!

dana

Allie: How did you become a professional pastry chef?

Dana: I started baking when I was 5 years old with my Easy Bake Oven, which was one of my first Hanukkah gifts. I continued to bake for my friends, and started blogging about baking and creating new recipes. I then went to school for culinary arts and hospitality management.

Allie: What do you love the most about baking?

Dana: The joy and happiness that baking can bring other people is what I love the most about it. Dessert is obviously such a sweet thing, and seeing someone light up over a creation made from raw ingredients is so enjoyable

Allie: What’s your favorite thing to bake?

Dana: Laminated doughs and breads like croissants, or danishes. I also love baking challah. And the classics like apple pies, banana cream pies, and cookies. It’s hard to pick just one!

Allie: Do you have any foodie role models?

Dana: Again, I can’t pick one. Growing up, I always watched Hell’s Kitchen with my dad and Gordon Ramsay really inspired me. I also admire Christina Tosi, her Milk Bar empire is huge and blossoming. Oh, and Belinda Leong, she owns b.patisserie in San Francisco and her pastries are amazing. Also Carla Hall, she’s a DC native and I worked with her in college.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Dana: Hanukkah is 8 days of fun and celebration, good food, and spending time with family and friends. I don’t live with Jewish people, but I’ve been trying to practice the traditions with my roommates. We’ll light the menorah together every night, and being able to share that with them has been really special.

cookies

Allie: How would you spend a totally free day in the city?

Dana:I’d wake up and go to Philz for coffee, then get a massage at Deluca. There are so many hidden gems in DC that I don’t even realize are here. So, I would go exploring, find a new place to eat, and then meet up with friends and go see a comedy show, go bowling, or go to a sporting event.

Allie: What is your fantasy of your future baking career?

Dana: I’d love to move abroad and work under a big chef. Then, in 10 years my dream is to open my own place and call it Bloomies, like my last name.

Allie: Are Gather readers able to hire you to bake something for them?

Dana: Yes! Just contact me on Instagram. I can make vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, anything you want!

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Dana: They laugh and eat good food.

dana b

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Two Dudes on a Couch Watch a Rom-Com Together

netflix

“Zoey Deutch is the next America’s Sweetheart,” says Maxwell about the lead actress in the romantic comedy “Set It Up” he and I began watching together three minutes earlier on this Saturday afternoon.

I type his quote in the Google Doc I’m note-taking on. The Doc saves offline since I didn’t connect to Maxwell’s Wi-Fi because it’s Shabbat, I tell myself, and not because I am too lazy to find the password on his router.

We—two 34-year-old dudes, each obsessed with his own physique—are sitting on Maxwell’s black leather couch in front of his new 65-inch LED television, holding cans of Summer Solstice by Anderson Valley Brewing Company, in his apartment in Logan Circle he shares with his wife. There is no dog here. There isn’t even a cat. And, his wife is at work. It’s just two dudes on a couch watching a rom-com together.

Maxwell and I met one month earlier at a Shabbat dinner held at GatherDC. The group started discussing movies. We two then hijacked the conversation and struggled finding one movie we felt differently about, which meant we struggled finding one trait each disliked about the other since movies are THE BEST, which meant we were bonded

Maxwell and I decided to watch a movie and I’d write a blog post about it for GatherDC. Now, I’m using the excuse of writing a blog post for GatherDC for why we are watching Netflix’s sleeper hit “Set It Up” – because some dudes think they need justification to watch a rom-com.

In this movie, supporting actors Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu—once America’s Sweetheart?—run separate firms in New York City and treat their employees, including co-stars Deutch and Glen Powell, like scum. This movie is romanticizing an evil side of humanity.

But, this article’s intention isn’t to demonstrate how “Set It Up” uses Empire City’s enchantment to make you feel like you, too, should spend most of your waking hours trying to please a boss who degrades you for low pay. There’s Rotten Tomatoes for that. This article is about what I think of a rom-com as I’m watching it while sitting on a couch with Maxwell.

My history with rom-coms

One of my first thoughts is that this may be the first time I’ve watched a rom-com on a couch with another dude. Can that be true? That sounds absurd considering I’ve watched over 600 films just in the last five years.

Sure, I’ve rom-commed with women as an end to our dates. But deep down, I must have known it was more than that when, one time, halfway through watching a rom-com together, my date leapt from her spot on the couch to my lap. Instead of initiating a make-out, I continued rom-comming.

Instead of Netflix and chill, it should be Netflix and then chill.

I remember as a young teen, I sat on the couch next to one of my older brother’s best childhood friends, David, and belittled him for telling us all the rom-coms he’d recently watched. I wasn’t the only teaser, we all chimed in. David would talk about the meaning behind Runaway Bride while the rest of us would cackle. “Was it as good as “One Fine Day”, David? Please compare Richard Gere to George Clooney,” I can imagine the rest of us saying to David.

“I will, but first let me tell you about Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail!” I can also imagine David responding with. Here’s the thing about David: he didn’t seem to care what others thought of his fondness for rom-coms, or any other aspect of himself. And looking back, that’s one of the reasons I always admired him. David is now a pediatric surgeon in the Army, married with two kids, and I’m sure still rom-comming.

As “Set It Up” continues, I’m thinking less about whether I’ve rom-commed on a couch with another dude before and mostly I’m just thinking about the movie. I now have a quantity of thoughts and a level of feels that surprise me. I think if Maxwell and I watch Dumb and Dumber together, we’ll laugh until our abs ache and re-state lines over and over. If we watch The Departed, we’ll shout after each of the killings and then stay silent so as not to miss a single tense beat.

The “about-ness” of “Set It Up”

Instead, while watching “Set It Up”, we share our thoughts on what my former fiction writing professor Justin Tussing called the “about-ness” of the movie. That term refers to something beyond theme and more like the work’s soul, the purpose of the work, the meaning behind it and what it’s trying to teach us. Perhaps Maxwell and I feel like we can discuss about-ness right now because just being two dudes on a couch watching a rom-com together feels like a breach of our masculinity.

We embrace that breach now by discussing the story’s depth in a manner we otherwise wouldn’t have while in each other’s presence. Which means that same discussion of about-ness must also include the disclaimer that we only watched it because I had to write a story about it and needed him for back-and-forth banter to make the article funny and worth writing and reading. We think we need justification.

Typically I’d say about-ness is the most important thing about a book or movie, but not today.

The story we tell ourselves

All that really matters today is the acknowledgement that throughout my life, up until now, I allowed myself to believe the story that not only are rom-coms meant just for women to watch and discuss, but also that I’m not a “man” if I watch them. I can’t control the story others tell about me, just like there was no way David could have prevented us from teasing him for watching “The Beautician and the Beast”. But, we can control the story we tell ourselves.

Here’s the story I tell myself now: rom-coms demonstrate the truth in people and their relationships more so than any other movie genre does. Throughout my life I disqualified an entire genre of film that could have taught me about the human condition. That ends now, as I just added 21 rom-coms to my Netflix queue, some of which I hope to watch while sitting on a couch with Maxwell, David, or another dude.

 

 

About the Author. Benjamin Rubenstein  is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you!  Benjamin is the author of the Cancer-Slaying Super Man books. He earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. You can subscribe to his quarterly newsletter.

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish Dog of the Month: Scruffy!

scruffy

Sarah: What is your name?

Scruffy

Sarah: Where did your name come from?

Scruffy: Have you seen me? It’s the pawfect name for me with my wiry hair and my beard!

Sarah: How did you get to DC?

Scruffy: I got to DC by way of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. I was a stray in South Carolina (can you believe that?!), and they picked me up and brought me to DC at three months old. I was only five pounds. (Now I’m a healthy 17 lbs, in case you were wondering.) I feel very lucky.

dog

Sarah: What’s it like living with your owner?

Scruffy: Erika? She’s the best! I mean, she gives me Beggin’ Strips, leaves DogTV on when she goes out, and she sings Broadway show-tunes in her (ahem…our) room. Oh, and those belly rubs…

Sarah: What is your biggest pet peeve that your owner does?

Scruffy: Erika is a total night owl, and she leaves the light on until like 2 am! I need to get my beauty rest. She does let me sleep in, though, so it’s all good.

Sarah: If a genie could grant you 3 wishes, what would they be?

Scruffy: 1) For my my favorite dog that Erika fostered this year, Kiki, to come back. We had a special bond. 2) A chicken-scented blanket. 3) No more baths!

Sarah: What is your spirit animal?

Scruffy: I’ll go with a fox! Even though I’m small, I have a BIG personality (just ask the doggies I torment when Mom brings me to her WeWork office with her). Also, I always have something going on in my head.

Sarah: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Scruffy: Passover. Umm… brisket leftovers. Need I say more?

dog

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.